GODS AND MONSTERS... THE SHAPE OF WATER AND THE NATURE OF THE HERO
Not so very long ago, the makers of films with B-movie themes were on safe ground. If a monster appeared on the silver screen, then that monster would be the embodiment of evil.
Human beings would face tricky moments but would triumph in the end, and the monster would be destroyed. It is a trope that, in English literature at least, can trace its origins back to the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf, which was written around the eighth or the ninth century. Here we see the sword-swinging, beefy hero managing to kill two demons: then dying like a real man in old age, with his sword-belt on, having despatched his dragon. But even here, over a thousand years back in time, there is the suggestion that old Beowulf has acted out of sinful pride in taking on his final, fatal challenge: and pride in those days was a major sin. Perhaps Beowulf has damned his soul, through this ultimate act of hubris? Might there, even, have been another way?
In this year's hit movie, The Shape of Water, a creature that, back in the 1960s, would have been a man-eating swamp monster, arising from the budget of cheap B-movies, has become the expensively generated hero of a major production. There is even the suggestion that he might be some kind of water god. Here is a pagan deity re-asserting himself, as an embodiment of one element of Nature. In the film, most human beings are evil, selfish manipulators who simply do not understand. The US Government officials want to use science to understand the creature: and that involves a scalpel and vivisection. The Russian agents want to euthanize him. Other humans, a few humans, however, are able to appreciate and even love the creature: and there lies hope for us all.
This is one theme I have dabbled with, in the creation of Bizarre Fables. In The Giant's Leg, for example, I write the following: "The giant's lament could be heard, it was said, some ten or fifteen miles away; yet at that distance the words would all be lost. The people of those villages would only hear the bellowing of monsters."
And later I write: "….the giant knew he was no monster. In fact, he was not a giant, just a very tall fellow in the shadow of a forest, with only the owls and the foxes for his friends."
The giant will not be labelled and he insists on his own decent humanity: no matter how many people refuse to accept or understand him.